Calgary is planning an expansion of the alcohol in parks pilot program, including designating entire parks for picnics with alcohol.
A program update will come to the city’s community development committee Wednesday, showing exceptional uptake and few complaints.
“As a result of very positive feedback, coupled with minimal concerns, the program is recommended to continue and expand in response to public demand,” the administration report read.
The program was delayed in 2019 to address public concerns about the collateral impact of having public drinking.
The first season of the pilot program is now complete. The city recorded 1,556 bookings, along with first-come, first-served users. Two complaints were reported: One for litter, the other for public urination.
The majority of use was in higher-density neighbourhoods or areas with multi-family units, the city’s report showed.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who helped spearhead the liquor relaxation, said 95 per cent of the feedback he received was positive.
“I would say that the concerns that I heard from the community were the booking was a drag,” he said.
“I definitely heard from Indigenous people who were suggesting this was a very privileged sort of way to approach enjoyment in parks because we definitely crack down on public disorder and drunkenness… that we were building a sort of, almost two-tiered society.”
Upgrades for 2022
According to the city report, they expect to include 10 full or partial parks where Calgarians can consume alcohol in 2022.
The city said they can add 20 new tables within the existing city parks budget. These would be single-table areas in high-density areas. They also want to add consumption at the winter firepits in parks.
Plans for instant booking, improving table locating and website upgrades are also planned.
Carra said he wasn’t surprised to see the higher numbers in high-density neighbourhoods.
“People who are living higher density don’t have a sprawling backyard to sit with their friends, and to go out and to use the park system and that way makes a ton of sense,” he said.
Expansion is on the table, and Carra can foresee a time when all parks could be open for responsible consumption – thus breaking down that potential two-tiered barrier.
“I think that that would be a goal. I’d be very interested in reaching. I hope that that’s the inevitable sort of outcome of this march of progress we’re on right now.”
“The whole thesis is that if you decriminalize and you destigmatize things like that, people will be responsible and enjoy and it will not be the pinnacle of the downfall of civilization. That’s sort of what it looks to have been.”